Earthquake in Herat, Afghanistan: Aid group warns damage ‘worse than we thought’


International aid organizations in Afghanistan are scrambling to assist survivors Earthquake hits west of country over weekend More than 2,000 people were killed and many others injured in a war-torn country already hit by an economic crisis.

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of the city of Herat in western Herat province, Afghanistan’s third-largest quake, on Saturday. It was one of the deadliest earthquakes to hit Afghanistan in years.

Images showed large amounts of debris and rubble after the building collapsed. Groups of survivors were also seen gathering in the streets seeking safety.

“The situation is worse than we imagined, and people in the affected villages are still desperately trying to rescue survivors from under the rubble with their bare hands,” said Saminderi de Silva, country director of World Vision Afghanistan.

De Silva added that reinforcements from the capital Kabul had arrived to help, “but there is only one hospital there and it is at capacity, with serious cases being transferred to other private facilities in the city.”

“Our colleagues and their families are dealing with this disaster back home, but we are doing everything we can to respond,” DeSilva said. “People need emergency medical care, water, food, shelter and help to stay safe.”

U.N. agencies and partners are continuing emergency operations and deploying additional teams to participate in ongoing humanitarian efforts, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General.

“We are coordinating with de facto authorities to quickly assess needs and provide emergency assistance,” Dujarric said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed solidarity on Sunday and called on the international community to “come together to support Afghans affected by the earthquake – many of whom were already in dire straits before this crisis,” he added.

UNICEF UNICEF has dispatched 10,000 hygiene kits, 5,000 household kits, 1,500 winter coats and blankets, 1,000 tarpaulins and basic household items to ongoing humanitarian efforts.

Teams are also on the ground conducting additional assessments and providing emergency medication and tents to overburdened clinics.

“We will do everything we can to provide quick relief to those affected,” said Fran Equiza, the organization’s representative in Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid put the death toll at 2,053 on Sunday, with another 1,240 injured and 1,320 houses completely or partially destroyed. But there are concerns the death toll could rise further.

Afghanistan has long been one of Asia’s poorest countries and has been ravaged by conflict for decades.

The Taliban seized power in August 2021, 20 years after being overthrown by US forces, an incident that led to the withdrawal of many major aid organizations and non-governmental organizations and the halt of important aid programs.

The Taliban’s takeover has further isolated Afghanistan from the rest of the world and led Washington and its allies to cut off international funding – crippling an economy already heavily reliant on aid.

The country continues to be severely devastated by regular earthquakes.

In June last year, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck the eastern Paktika and Khost provinces bordering Pakistan, killing more than a thousand people.

The World Bank warned last week that two-thirds of Afghan households now face “significant challenges to making ends meet,” making it harder for Afghans to recover from the country’s frequent earthquakes.

International aid groups say their ability to respond to calls during major disasters has been severely hampered by the Taliban takeover and have called for more urgent global aid, but only a handful of countries have publicly expressed support.

Neighboring China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Sunday saying that China would “do its best to assist Afghanistan’s disaster relief work based on Afghanistan’s needs.”

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